A week ago, I received emails with the following subject lines from activist organizations regarding the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454):
“You have a crucial role to play”
“Climate emergency: call the US House today”
“URGENT: Clean energy bill may not pass–send a fax now!”
The main goals of the bill included establishing a carbon cap-and-trade system and setting renewable energy standards.
Some organizations simply urged me to encourage my representative to support the bill. Others highlighted how the bill had been weakened in House negotiations, saying the original provisions must be restored. In the end, I sent a message to my representative through 1Sky, asking him to work to strengthen the bill in specific ways and oppose efforts to weaken it.
In the end, the House passed a severely weakened bill. The bill passed with these major flaws:
1. Instead of auctioning emission permits (i.e. carbon credits), the bill gives away 85% of them. Giving away carbon credits is the main reason that Europe’s cap-and-trade program failed. We have a chance to learn from their mistakes, but instead we choose to make the same mistakes over again.
2. The final version of the bill puts forward a much lower renewable energy target than originally proposed, while giving money to coal companies.
3. The bill strips the EPA of their authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Despite these weaknesses, many organizations, including Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Fund, and 1Sky considered the bill’s passage a victory and a step in the right direction.
So I’m wondering, is it really a victory? Would we be better off with no bill than one with lots of concessions to coal and oil industries? Or are the above-mentioned organizations right, that something is better than nothing, that this will be a step forward and not just more of the status quo?